Wednesday, April 27, 2011

                I did not like my high school.  SHOCK!  Ask most adults and they can tell you a horror story or three about their high school experience.   Zits, awkward dating, worries of the future, hormonal changes, physical growth, and emotional immaturity are just a few of the lovely things we get to experience during that awkward phase of life we call being a “teenager”!
                Among the many classes I did not enjoy in high school, English class was especially frustrating.  Why you might ask?  It’s very simple:  the teacher was a jerk.  He picked on kids.  He was ridiculously sarcastic and not very uplifting at all.  So, I chose to be the silent kid.  I only answered when he called on me secretly praying what I was about to say would not incur his verbal wrath and/or mockery. 
                It was my senior year when I took his class.  I was excited to be graduating high school but I had no clue what the world was about or what a career really meant.  I was not academically gifted and certainly didn’t apply myself.  Looking back, too much MTV, undiagnosed ADHD, and a love of playing with my rock band until 2 am on school nights probably circumvented my rightful academic glory!  However, this English class forever changed my life. 
                It was the last day of class.  We were instructed to stop by and pick up our final exam and project grades as well as our grade for the year.  Nervously, I walked into the teachers classroom, shoulders slumped, bracing for the worst.  He handed me my final exam and project grade which doesn’t stick out in my memory, which tells me that I must have passed and at least gotten a “C” or better.  What was life changing was what he said to me after he handed me my papers.  He said, “Well Newcomb (military school has a way of only acknowledging your last name), the world might just be a better place because you’re in it and can make a difference.”  
                I almost passed out.  I quietly thanked him and walked out of the room.  I couldn’t believe my ears.  He spoke to me with kindness and uplifting words.  I was floored.  It would take a while for the content of what he said to sink into my heart and mind and then pour out into my life.  Over time through college and graduate school, I would go back to those words as a positive refrain to get me through whatever test, real or academic, I faced at the time.  “The world might just be a better place because I am in it and I can make a difference.”  It became my personal mantra.  
                In retrospect, the words are not all that unique.  I’ve seen commercials using similar language.  The catch was I didn’t see that or believe it about myself.  He did.  He saw something.  He took the time and the chance to tell me.  I am forever grateful. 
                It reminds me of a lyric written by the band Foo Fighters.  The song is called “My Hero”.  The singer penned these words,

“There goes my hero
watch him as he goes
there goes my hero
he's ordinary”

                It’s an adequate description of this teacher in my life.  He was just an ordinary guy with bills, worries, concerns, goals, and dreams.  How extraordinary can those words be that come from a seemingly ordinary man?!? 
                Who is your hero(s)?  Are you a hero to someone else?  If not, can you become one?  You don’t have to be extraordinary to impact someone’s life in a positive direction.  You can be a “ordinary” English teacher whose words encouraged a despondent young man to embrace his uniqueness and make something of himself.  That’s pretty cool.  That’s my hero.  Thanks Coach Arnold! 

Chris Newcomb - Aftercare Coordinator/Recovery Coach

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